Bükkszentkereszt was one of the most popular mountain resorts in Hungary after the 1st World War. It is not only for its beautiful surrounding that the village situated at an average altitude of 680 metres was popularised so much. Its air of therapeutic nature was highly recommended both to heal illnesses of respiratory organs as well as to help exhausted people recovering their bodily strength. Tourism caused the image of Bükkszentkereszt to change significantly. Besides residential buildings, nice hostels and restaurants also appeared on the slopes of the mountain( several of those hostels and restaurants, certainly wearing new names, operate even today. The settlement’s present municipality also considers tourism as the potential for the community’s development and for its breakthrough. Ceaselessly growing more and more attractive, this mountain hamlet has established a ski-track equipped with a ski-lift, a mountain tennis court, and several horse-riding facilities, to serve holiday-makers. At the same time a museum, set up recently only, allows an insight into the rich past of the village and its neighbourhood.
Until 1940 Bükkszentkereszt had been called Újhuta (literally meaning ’new glass-works’). This old name refers to the glassmakers who founded the village. The first workers of the glass-works established at Újhuta in 1755 were of Czech-Moravian, Polish and German origin who produced, in addition to sheet-glass for windows, bottles for various uses and in various shapes for the historical wine-producing regions. Local glass production ceased to exist in the late XVIIIth century, and most of the old masters wandered away to find a new job somewhere else. The rich forests of Mountain Bükk, situated west of Miskolc, were managed by the Treasury. To have the trees here lumbered and sold, the Treasury settled new forest workers, in several waives, from the northern, Slovak-populated areas of the country. As a result, the village established by glass-makers now became inhabited by Slovak people.
The village hidden in a small valley on the plateaux of Mountain Bükk lies on a territory poor in water, and lacks any cultivable land. Until recently the forests had been ensuring the inhabitants’ livelihood. The relic of the community’s Church, dedicated to the Holy Crucifix Extolled that the settlement received its new name from, is a splinter from Christ’s Crucifix. It may not be by accident because as Jesus had to assume, bitterly suffering, all the sins of humankind, similarly the plain Slovaks had to suffer a lot to ensure their livelihood and survival. Despite lumbermen’s hard work, the frequent shortage of potable water, epidemics and illnesses in the village, the community became more and more populous since the profoundly religious families, rearing several children, could well adapt themselves to the circumstances, and flexibly find their place in the division of labour in the area. Besides lumbering, they earned their living by charcoal and lime burning, as well as by selling wild fruits and herbs. In the first half of the XIXth century, the main user of the wood lumbered was the Treasury’s ironworks that operateed at Hámor, i.e. in the vicinity of Újhuta. It generated high demand for firewood as well as for charcoal and burnt lime.
In 1868, one of the most modern ironworks in the country was built up at Diósgyőr, which, from then on, substituted the already non-operational ironworks at Hámor, and kept on relying on the services provided by the villages hidden in Mountain Bükk, such as Újhuta.
Making use of its vicinity to the ironworks, Újhuta grew to become a transportation centre in the second half of the XIXth century. Local people that had draught animal transported wood on ox-carts to Diósgyőr. They used horse-carriages to visit remote territories, to provide the people of the Hungarian Alföld (Great Plain) with charcoal or lime. From the late XIXth century, the inhabitants of Újhuta gradually gave up charcoal burning, to specialise themselves in lime burning. This activity earned them such a good reputation that the masters of Újhuta were invited to burn lime and to teach their trade in several countries of Europe. The villagers wandering on covered or hooded wagons sold lime primarily for agricultural produce. These barter deals ensured food supply to the village.
The Slovaks of Újhuta became bilingual around the second half of the XIXth century, which was followed by their gradual assimilation. In their special forest-related activities, i.e. when they were doing lumbering and lime burning in their typical form of labour organisation, the Slovaks used the Slovak language. When it came to the transportation of, or peddling with, lime, however, they communicated in Hungarian. The obligatory use of language in the Church, in school education, and at official institutions just accelerated their assimilation. When the 1000th anniversary of the Hungarian conquest in the Carpathian Basin was held in 1896, the Slovaks, at an initiative of the local parson, adopted sweet-sounding or traditional Hungarian family names which occasionally also helped the last external signs of their foreign origin to vanish.
Findings of detailed linguistic studies as well as the historical sources also prove that the Slovaks were from areas outside the Bratislava (Pozsony) and Nógrád counties of Upper Hungary (Felföld). Their original family names show Czech-Moravian or Polish origin. Settling in Mountain Bükk, the population from 11 counties of the Upper Hungary created a specific, mixed dialect. In 1941, more than 2 thirds of the 1600 residents of Bükkszentkereszt could speak Slovak. Under the Hungarian-Czechoslovak agreement on the exchange of population, more than 900 people applied for moving out after the 2nd World War. In the end, 660 people, the oldest one aged 78 years and the youngest 18 months, moved to the Sudeten German region of Czechoslovakia.
After the 2nd world War, more and more young people from the following generation gave up their mother tongue, and therefore only the oldest people could speak Slovak by the 60s and 70s. In recognition of the significance of the language, the importance of the origin, of the national identity, the municipality today supports, by all means, the teaching of the Slovak language, and endeavours to nurture lively relations with Slovakian communities as well as with the former residents of Bükkszentkereszt who live in Slovakia now.
It is not only the Slovakian dialects from the various areas of Upper Hungary, but the different ethnic groups’ cultures as well, that, in the course of their history, Bükkszentkereszt people created a special unity from. Each ethnic group originating from a different region made its contribution to the traditional culture of Bükkszentkereszt that was kept alive in the various forms of traditional economic activities. The material and spiritual manifestations of that culture that have survived can be found primarily in the constructed environment, in the numerous modes of transportation, and of carrying loads, as well as in the celebrations and beliefs relating to their religion. They utilised a very wide range of tools and devices for carrying loads and for transportation. Special sleighs, known only in this area in the whole region, were used to transport timbers, and their device to lift logs (called “hévér”) was also unique. The carts were converted in many different ways to meet the various demands of timber or lime transportation.
The Catholic population felt it binding for themselves to regularly practice their religion. They showed a special liking for visiting famous places of pilgrimage, and earned reputation to their own parish-feast that was held on the day of the Extolled Holy Crucifix. In addition to religious holidays, the traditions of outstanding days and the popular beliefs have preserved some traditional elements that can, in many cases, be regarded as characteristics of their ethnic origin. Superhuman and supernatural beings, with the deeds and stories attributed to them, as found in the folklore beliefs of Bükkszentkereszt people are mostly from Upper Hungary, in reflection of the population’s former place of residence, and of the many-colour culture they created after settling in Mountain Bükk.